Tri-Sector Collaborations For Sustainability In The Food Industry

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Sustainability is the buzz word for the food and beverage industry today, and tri-sector collaborations, or private-public partnerships, are a solution. Yannick Foing, senior regional manager, Asia Pacific, Nutrition Improvement Program, DSM, shares more with APFI.

DSM has recently announced a partnership with Singapore Management University (SMU) to advance tri-sector collaborations for sustainability in Asia. But first off, what is sustainability and why is important?


The idea of sustainability really forced its way to the forefront when the industry—and all other sectors including food and beverage—realised the very real possibility that there might be no future. This is in terms of materials, land, energy, and resources that we use.

In fact, as early as 2008, reports started surfacing that we were already then overusing our natural resources. One by the Living Planet reported that humans were using 30 percent more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which was leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in the populations of fish and other species. Two planets would be needed by 2030 at the rate we were going then, the report warned.

Eight years on, and the consensus of the industries is still the same; we are still overusing our resources and worse still, the threat of food security is growing with every day. The estimated global population will reach nine billion by 2030, and experts are warning that it might be a challenge to feed the extra two billion people we would have gained by then.

Implementing regulations to cut down resources used or sharing information to improve crop yields could help improve the food security issue, and for this, it is essential for the different sectors of the industry to collaborate with each other, such as through tri-sector collaborations.

Tri-Sector Collaborations

According to Mr Foing, a tri-sector collaboration is the partnership of businesses, governments and civil society to address critical challenges that are impacting society as a whole. Because these issues are complex, they require coordinated efforts among organisations that are not traditionally used to working with each other; these issues would not be able to be easily solved by any of these sectors alone.

Tri-sector collaboration is an important concept as it engages multiple stakeholders, and leverages their strengths to achieve a bigger impact. “We believe that this is an exciting, new way of looking at issues that are not easily addressed from a singular perspective, such as nutrition, sustainability and food security,” he said.

These collaborations also tackle problems from a broader perspective. For example, addressing nutritional challenges in Asia would be so much more than looking at the nutritional status of a population or the food that we eat.

To address these issues, what must be considered as well would be the society’s access to water and good sanitation, agriculture and the supply chain, and finally education of the population on nutrition. And to tackle these, a single company or government or non-governmental organisation (NGO) would be unable to tackle the issue comprehensively, but by partnering with each other, a more effective solution can be found.

Food Security In Asia

According to a 2015 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) report, the region has made great strides in halving the proportion of undernourished people in 2015. Overall, the Rice Bowl Index, a comprehensive measure of food security in 15 Asia Pacific countries, has improved across the board in 2015 as well, increasing by two percent.

However, there are still 490 million people, or 62 percent of the world’s undernourished that are still suffering chronic hunger in Asia, and the priority remains finding ways to produce more food from the limited and dwindling natural resource base, while addressing the impact of climate change.

At the same time, the region is also seeing a rapid increase in people who are overweight or obese, creating a double burden of under and over-nutrition.

This issue is complex, and several NGOs, governments and other businesses are working together to tackle the challenges to food security. This is where DSM’s role comes in, Mr Foing informs, as DSM is a private sector business which supports several stakeholders within the value chain.

DSM & Tri-Sector Collaborations

The company has been involved in various tri-sector collaborations over the years, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) from 2007, to provide scientific expertise, products and technical and even financial assistance, helping WFP to improve food supplies and food quality through the addition of tailor-made, ready-to-use solutions that provide essential micronutrients. As well as with fortified rice, DSM has also helped WFP to improve the formula of its fortified blended foods.

As for the recent one with SMU, the company will be sponsoring a Fellowship at the university to advance knowledge, foster best practices, influence policies, facilitate networks and promote partnerships in sustainable development, he said.

This partnership would set the foundation for tri-sector collaborations to discover new opportunities, and new solutions to overcome societal challenges such as climate change, energy, health and wellbeing. It is hoped that in turn, this would boost economic prosperity, environmental quality and social responsibility, which is in line with the company’s mission to improve the lives of people today and for generations to come.

By partnering with a university, this enables education to influence the future leaders of society, which would help to encourage cross-sector thinking. The program would therefore play a critical role in enabling cross-sector collaboration, Mr Foing said.

“Instead of campaigning against businesses and government, civil societies are now realising that it is better to work together with both sectors to effect change,” he said. Increasingly, this new model of working together is bringing about change that affects public health, poverty, and food distribution to Asia.